HR Strange But True!
July 17, 2008

While you sit and worry about age and weight discrimination issues and the cost of healthcare premiums and wellness programs, your colleagues in Japan are sending all their over-40 workers to have their waists measured--and it's perfectly legal.

According to U.S. News and World Report, after a study by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare revealed that the new Western lifestyle is giving citizens "metabolic syndrome," Japan passed legislation in April requiring all citizens over the age of 40 to have their waists measured every year. Men with waists over 33.5 inches and women with waists measuring over 35.5 inches face mandatory referrals to weight-loss and wellness counseling and continued monitoring.

The government blames a change in eating habits from rice and soybeans to beef and sweets for the increase in high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, and diabetes, a condition citizens are calling "metabo," which has doubled in the last 15 years.

The government is also requiring companies to keep employees slim or face higher payments into the national health insurance program, says the article. Japanese employers are responding proactively with wellness measures including diet lectures, exercise breaks, "lifestyle instruction," and even a boot-camp type retreats for overweight workers.

Companies are writing weight maintenance into job descriptions, rather than just making it a suggestion. Some are installing high-tech exercise equipment or have begun monitoring--and--prescribing what foods employees eat for lunch. Others are giving workers earlier interventions regarding weight and fitness and are tracking individual results to see who requires individual attention (read "boot camps").

This all this isn't sitting well with some Japanese, who in the past have given deference to their employers and the government. "My waistline is none of my company's business," a worker told the news magazine, while another said his diet "is not the government's concern." However, their insurance premium increases aren't getting skinnier anytime soon.

Source: U.S. News and World Report

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